THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Friday asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to step in to resolve the issue regarding lockdown relaxations given in Chandigarh by the UT Administration, which a PIL alleged are not in conformity with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. For the future too, the UT Administration has been ordered to seek clarifications from the MHA if required.
“Having heard the petitioner in person, the learned Senior Standing Counsel for the Union Territory, Chandigarh and the learned Additional Solicitor General of India for the Union of India, it is observed that the issues raised in the petition can be best resolved by the MHA itself as the import and object of the guidelines can be best understood by the issuing authority itself i.e. the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,” a division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli said in the order.
With only two days left for the ongoing phase of lockdown, the HC in the order recorded an undertaking that the UT and MHA will meet on Friday itself and resolve all the issues latest by Saturday. In case there is any requirement for issuing rectifications, it has been recorded, the same would be done.
“It is also stated by the counsel for the Union Territory, Chandigarh that in future as well, the UT Administration shall consult and seek clarifications from the MHA, in case so required or advised,” the division bench said in the order while disposing of the petition filed by advocate Pankaj Chandgothia.
Chandgothia contended in the PIL that the boundaries of containment zones haven’t been properly defined, questioned the unrestricted inter-state movement on UT’s borders and within the city, the decision of opening up of Industrial Area and market complexes, and allowing the public to visit places like Sukhna Lake. During the hearing on Friday, Chandgothia said the court chided the authorities for giving so many relaxations and observed the Administration was behaving like “super power” and thinking of itself as “most intelligent”.
The UT Administration in a reply, submitted before passing of the order, to the PIL had claimed they have strictly followed the MHA guidelines and demanded that the PIL be dismissed with costs. It contended all the decisions have been taken in consultation with experts and it “dutifully has not left any stone unturned in fighting Covid-19”.
Submitting a decision was subsequently taken to treat entire areas of Bapu Dham, Sector 38, Sector 52 and Shastri Nagar as containment zones but no formal order was passed, the court was told the industrial areas have been opened as they have access control. The shops in markets in various sectors have been opened by treating them as neighbourhood shops as there are no standalone shops in Chandigarh. Entertainment parks like Rock Garden, boating in Sukhna Lake and cafeteria have not been opened, the UT said.
After the court pulled up Chandigarh for its actions, the Additional Solicitor General of India, Satya Pal Jain, submitted that the steps taken by Union Territory, Chandigarh, have been taken with a “bona fide object and not with any mala fide intent” and as the Ministry of Home Affairs is the best authority to understand, explain and interpret its own guidelines, the UT and MHA can sit together for resolving the issues.
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